Saturday, June 9, 2007


(Originally 3 April 2007)

Bartender delivered bite-sized modern day fables with various analogies to bridge cocktails and their history to everyday problems. Ultimately feel good in nature. I didn't mind it, and there were some individual episodes that are keepers. The female vocalist in the OP and ED (I believe they are both from the same artist/group) is terrible. She doesn't have the chops for swing or jazz ballads, or maybe most other music for that matter. Her voice was dry and flat, maybe in a pitching sense, too. How can anyone get away with singing out of tune when the song's not being performed live?

The second last episode featured the stereotypical nerd in the form of a fluid mechanics professor (he even broke out the Navier-Stokes equation), but his behaviour made for great contrast with respect to the constantly serious atmosphere throughout the series. This was the only episode to feature intentional comedy (you can likely find humour in anything if you look hard enough).

The last episode was philosophical bordering on the abstract. It seems that a bartender in Eden Hall is only a temporary position, which is puzzling seeing as how the place is not the kind of venue to practice in. There's not really that much to dwell on that is specific to the finale.

A significant draw to the series are the small moments of epiphanies received when stories and drinks come together. They do so in a very poetic sense, and a decent amount of screen time is devoted to romanticising tragedy, triumph, adversity, or even the job of a bartender. It's accessible enough that you don't have to think too hard to get the point.

Relatedly, the atmosphere is very relaxed. An episode has a mostly clean slate, with two consistently recurring characters, and some brief appearances by others. Episodes naturally take place during the night, the bar itself has low lighting, and scenes focus almost exclusively on two people at a time, with no extraneous action. There's not a lot of detail, but that's not a negative given the setting and context.

Lastly, I liked the artsy-ness exemplified in the first episode, with a single conversation thread or telling of a story carried by different characters in different locations in a serial fashion, and the transition of scenes through traditional cinematic or theatrical techniques (dark suddenly illuminated by a single spotlight on a character, merging of labels to scenes in history). I never thought it to be pretentious, though; the atmosphere was always too low key and comfy.

Bartender won't draw much attention, being a downbeat kind of series, but were it to try to be anything more it would ruin the good atmosphere it had going. I think it accomplished being the series you could stretch out and watch to unwind, a testament to its consistency of execution. It set out to do one thing and do it well, and I appreciate that.